Haredim may end boycott of Shefa Shuk

Dor Alon Group said to be mulling closure of AM:PM shops on Shabbat in exchange for lifting the ban.

Shefa Shuk 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Shefa Shuk 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The haredi community may be close to an agreement with Dor Alon Group owner Dudi Weissman to close his AM:PM grocery shops on Shabbat in exchange for lifting a ban on the Shefa Shuk supermarket chain. "There is an verbal commitment by Dudi Weissman's representatives to gradually close all AM:PM grocery shops on Shabbat. But there is nothing in writing," Rabbi Yitzhak Goldknopf, secretary of the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat, told The Jerusalem Post Thursday. "As soon as all AM:PM shops remain closed during Shabbat, the haredi community will lift the ban on the group's Shefa Shuk branches." Shefa Shuk supermarkets, which serve the haredi community, have lost many customers and, in some cases, remained almost empty since a committee of rabbis instituted a boycott against the chain one and a half years ago. Shefa Shuk aroused the ire of haredim because Weissman also owns the Tel Aviv-based AM:PM supermarket chain, which is open seven days a week. Because AM:PMs stay open on Shabbat, the Committee for the Sanctity of Shabbat said religious shoppers were indirectly violating Shabbat by shopping there. The loss of haredi customers, many of whom have switched to buying at Shufersal's Yesh supermarkets, which cater to haredi clientele, has hurt revenues at Dor Alon's subsidiaries. Contacted by the Post, Dor Alon Group representatives declined to comment on the negotiations. Yisrael Kellerman, Shefa Shuk's haredi CEO, told the Hebrew press that negotiations were ongoing and include a test closing of several AM:PM outlets on Shabbat. But he stressed that nothing had been finalized. Kellerman is reported to have started negotiations a month ago with leading rabbis to reach an agreement by which AM:PM outlets would close on Shabbat in exchange for rescinding the boycott. "For one and a half years we have been waiting for the closure of the group's shops that are open on Shabbat," Goldknopf said. "The renewed commitment comes just before the start of the Jewish High Holy Days, and we will see if they are serious this time or whether it is just a media spin. Until then, we are maintaining our stance." AM:PM stores are located predominately in central areas of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan and are open seven days a week, much like other grocery chains that are open in Jerusalem on Shabbat. "We are not talking about a mall being open on Shabbat but neighborhood grocery shops that have become part of the culture and way of life of a liberal city like Tel Aviv, whose residents are used to buying their milk or some bread on a Shabbat morning or after a day at the beach," Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipal Council Member Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) told the Post Thursday. "If Weissman caves in to the pressure, I hope he loses out... as the secular community organizes itself. One way or the other, it is not going to change the city's Shabbat shopping culture, since there are other grocery chains open seven days a week that Tel Avivians can choose from."